Having secured three customers, Lockheed Martin (LM) is discussing the F-16V with five more countries, and sees potential for up to 1,000 such upgrades to the evergreen Fighting Falcon. In a briefing here at the show yesterday, the company’s F-16 business development manager Randy Howard declined to identify Taiwan, Korea and Singapore as the three committed countries.
Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) is the centerpiece of the upgrade, which also includes a new mission computer with 10 times the memory and twice the power of its predecessor, a high-speed 1Gb databus, and a 6- by 8-inch center pedestal display.
The test flight program for the upgrade is due to end early next year after some 80 sorties. Taiwan is the lead customer, with some 150 aircraft to convert. AIN understands that LM has agreed to a plan for Taiwan’s AIDC to do the upgrade work on all except the first two aircraft at its Taichung facility.
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Singapore’s ST Aerospace will expect similar arrangements. Korea originally chose a rival F-16 upgrade by BAE Systems, but the deal fell apart, and LM is now the sole provider, Howard confirmed.
"The new mission computer is an integral part of the upgrade package," Howard said. This poses an interesting issue for Singapore. In order to satisfy its desire for maximum operational independence, the island state’s air force was allowed to substitute an Elbit Systems computer for the American GAC unit on its 60-strong F-16C/D fleet.
Meanwhile, after 40 years of production, new F-16s continue to roll from the Fort Worth line at the rate of one per month. The current backlog is about 20 of the 36 F-16C/D Block 52s, ordered by Iraq. It is likely to increase by eight, following last week’s notification to the U.S. Congress of a potential $699 million sale of more Block 52s to Pakistan.